The Once and Future King Street
Some of you may have been following the deliberations about the King Street section of the Downtown Improvement Project in Leesburg. Last week the Town Council, on a 5-2 vote decided to go ahead with a plan that was rejected by the merchants along that stretch two years prior.
Today, long-time business owner Stilson Greene wrote an article on his blog which sums up the ridiculous assertions and assumptions which led to this madness. I’ll post it here with no further comment. Like Mr. Greene, I hope we’re wrong and it all works out like the “on-street-dining” aficionados think it will:
The Town Council of Leesburg, Virginia recently voted to remove the parking spaces on King Street in the Historic Downtown District. It’s a vote I have a hard time coming to grips with. They say that widening the sidewalks on the West side will make it it more pedestrian friendly and safer. Well, when I walk downtown having a parking space or a parked car between me and several multi-ton vehicles moving at 15 – 30 miles an hour makes me feel safer. They say that the 4 restaurants on the West side of the street can now use the sidewalks as an outdoor cafe. Well, what about the 3 restaurants on the East side? Shouldn’t they get some taxpayer money thrown at them to increase their earning capacity? After all they pay the same town taxes and meal taxes as their neighbors just steps across the street. Personally I can’t see having a nice meal while traffic moves around you and you inhale sweet exhaust fumes, I do get that the restaurants affected now have new smoking areas for their customers though.
Granted, I grew up in Leesburg, my family has been here since 1791. I have owned a successful business in Downtown Leesburg for the past 33 years and I do a myriad of community and charity work for my town and its citizens. I was recently told that all that doesn’t matter, that my opinion was bias due to my clinging on to memories and ghosts of the past. I was furious when I was told that, but have relented to feel that they were right, and I am richer for it and they are poorer for it.
That said, I still say taking parking spaces away is a mistake, every survey I’ve ever read concludes that more parking is needed in Downtown. So I asked a friend of mine who has been a champion retailer in Downtown on King Street for the past 25 years. A retailer who has been named Business of The Year numerous times and has won awards for best store of its kind in the Commonwealth. He also has opened a new business in Downtown that looks to be another successful venture. He is adamantly opposed to the removal of parking spaces and believes it will drastically hurt his business and others. Fairly, many business owners spoke in favor of the plan, (one being a restaurant owner and he’d be crazy not to, new free seating and all) but my friend’s success, business acuity and investment weighed heavier on my decision.
So now when I walk up my beloved King Street, I savor in the visual of customers and cars on the streets. I love the kinetic energy that the vehicles give off even while stationary and I think it’s sad to lose it.
Many people much smarter than me think that it’s the future of Leesburg and maybe they are right. I hope so. I hope that it works out, if it does I will revel in its success and be happy to be proved wrong.
As far as me being a biased sentimental dinosaur, well I revel in that, too.